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According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, drowsy driving is the cause of up to 100,000 accidents per year, resulting in an estimated 1,500 fatalities and 40,000 injuries. This statistic is especially problematic for semi-truck drivers, who, because of their demanding driving schedules, are at an increased risk of drowsy driving. A study conducted by the Harvard School of Medicine Sleep Medicine Division reveals that nearly half of semi-truck driver participants admitted to drifting off while driving a long-haul route.
Over-the-road truck drivers are often under pressure to meet deadlines by driving up to 11 hours a day. Experts have found similarities between drowsy driving and intoxicated driving in terms of impaired judgment, reaction times and visual acuity. This is dangerous not only for truck drivers but also for other drivers on the road, particularly because commercial trucks weigh up to 80,000 pounds whereas the average passenger vehicle which weighs between 2,000 and 4,000 pounds. This disparity contributes to a sobering statistic: in 98 percent of fatal accidents involving a semi-truck and a passenger vehicle, the person in the passenger vehicle was the one who was fatally injured.
The United States Department of Transportation and other agencies have responded to this concern by imposing limitations on the number of hours semi-truck drivers can drive before taking mandatory breaks. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration studied the root of many drowsy driving fatal accidents and found that up to 28 percent of commercial truck drivers suffer from sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a disorder that affects breathing during sleep and can lead to decreased performance in everyday activities such as driving.
Symptoms of sleep apnea involve constant daytime sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, memory issues and disturbed sleep, including choking or gasping for air and excessive snoring. If untreated, it can lead to headaches, depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and heart failure. Federal Regulations prohibit a truck driver from driving if they have moderate to severe sleep apnea. However, those with undiagnosed sleep apnea may not realize that is what is causing them to fall asleep at the wheel.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes some warning signs of drowsy driving, including frequent blinking or yawning, drifting into another lane, missing an exit, and difficulty remembering the last few miles driven. Drowsy driving can occur not only because of sleep apnea but also from a lack of sleep. For optimal functioning, most adults need at least seven hours of sleep a day.
Drowsy driving is the leading cause of truck accidents. If you have been injured because a truck driver was falling asleep while driving, contact the experienced Milford truck accident lawyers at Rhoades & Morrow. We engage in aggressive advocacy, helping to ensure that negligent parties are held responsible and that clients obtain maximum compensation for their injuries so they can recover and return to their normal lives. We represent clients in both upstate and downstate Delaware and our truck accident lawyers are available to provide you with a free consultation. Contact us online or call our Wilmington office at 302-427-9500, our Bear office at 302-834-8484, or our Milford office at 302-422-6705.